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Drywood termites in California


In California, there are three main species of termites, The Western drywood termite, the Dampwood termite, and the Arid-land Subterranean termite.

Californias Western drywood termite is the second most crucial termite pest; the Arid-land Subterranean termite is first because they cause the most damage.

The most common species of Drywood termite in California is the Western drywood termite. It is a native insect and eats mainly dead wood.

The drywood termite is common along the pacific coastal areas, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and occasionally in the Central Valley and in the deserts of Southern California. Drywood termites are sometimes confused with dampwood termites, which are also found along the Pacific coast.

Termites cause five billion dollars of feeding damage, termite treatment, and repair work to wooden structures in the United States every year. In areas of San Diego County, structural inspection reports found it is estimated between sixty and eighty percent of all wooden structures have a colony of termites.

States with the heaviest termite infestations are Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Eastern Texas, and California. The damage termites cause is more significant than combined storms, fires, and floods. A homeowner’s insurance does not cover termite damage insurance companies consider it down to maintenance.

This article will discuss everything you need to know regarding Drywood termites in California.

Let’s get started!

Drywood termites and Dampwood termites

Sometimes dampwood termites are confused with drywood termites. Dampwood termites are also a common species found in Northern coastal areas in California. Unlike Subterranean termites, both drywood and dampwood termites build nests in wood and not in soil and do not require soil contact like the Subterranean termites.

Dampwood termites require wood with a high-water content drywood termites require dry wood. Drywood termites are extremely cryptic insects as they are challenging to see living deep inside the wood. The only time you might see them is when drywood termite swarmers leave the nest to reproduce.

Arid-land Subterranean termite

Arid-land Subterranean termites travel from their colony under the ground to damage structures via mud tubes. Subterranean termites build mud tubes from soil and wood chips. Traveling like this keeps the Subterranean termites moist.

What are the signs of Western drywood termite infestations?

Western drywood termites live inside the wood; a drywood termite infestation can be found, for example, in old furniture, in wood framing supports, frames around doors and windows, eaves, and overhangs.

Fecal pellets of the drywood termite

A drywood termite produces dry hard droppings, also known as frass. The pellets are the size of a grain of salt. The termites push fecal pellets out from the wood through tiny holes.

It is challenging to detect drywood termites initially; however, if you find these pellets on windowsills, floors, near baseboards, gaps, and holes, it could be an indication of termite infestations.

Western drywood termite damage

Drywood termites, as you know, feed on dry wood; because of this, termite damage can occur on toys, wooden furniture, railings, crown molding, and any other wooden items in your home. Subterranean and drywood termites are well known to cause damage to homes in California; dampwood termites are less likely to be found infesting wood inside a house.

Drywood termite colonies are small

The colonies of drywood termites are a lot smaller than Subterranean termites. A typical colony will have less than a thousand termites; Subterranean termites can have a colony with hundreds of thousands of termites.

Subterranean termites might take longer to get to the wood members in your home, but due to their vast numbers, they are able to infest and destroy a house quickly. Drywood termites might be slower at destroying wood, but you can have more than one colony in the home.

Drywood termites swarming can be a sign of an infestation

When a Drywood termites colony becomes mature, the colony produces male and female Alates called swarmers. The winged termites gather in a swarm to mate. After they have mated, they shed their wings and create a new colony.

It could indicate termite infestations nearby if you discover shed wings and swarmers in and around your home.

The swarming habits of drywood termites, Subterranean termites, and Dampwood termites

Termites generally swarm on a warm day after a rainfall. Termites can also swarm in the winter inside heated buildings. If this happens inside your home, it is way too late for do-it-yourself treatments. Infested dwellings require a visual inspection and rapid treatment.

In Southern California, the Western drywood termite typically swarms during the day in early fall, between September and November. The desert drywood termite swarmers swarm in the evenings from July to September.

  • The Southeastern drywood termites swarm during the spring.

  • The Arid-land Subterranean termite typically swarms on a warm day after a rainfall.

  • The dampwood termite swarms around sunset between August and October.

Drywood termite control methods

Various treatment methods are used as pest control for the drywood termite that can be applied to termite-infested wood. The treatment methods used depend on the severity of the infestation. Treatment methods include fumigation, heat insulation repairs, and spot treatment options.

Because it is difficult detecting drywood termites and the extent of the damage, DIY is not recommended. Wall coverings conceal infestations like drywall or other wall coverings, so full termite inspections are recommended.


Current detection methods are not always accurate; extensive termite-infested wood caused by drywood termites that live deep inside wood should have whole structure treatments. This is defined as a simultaneous treatment of all present infestations in a structure.

A whole structure treatment can be done with the use of fumigation, which causes instant death to drywood termites. Fumigation is the most effective form of pest control and ensures all drywood termites are eliminated. Fumigation is expensive and disruptive and does not give residual protection but gives good results.

Heat treatments

Heat treatment is an option for those who do not want a fumigant in their home. The property is enclosed with tarpaulins, and heated air at a temperature of 120F is blown inside for around half an hour. The high temperatures kill drywood termites inside the wooden structure.

Localized or spot treatments

A localized or spot treatment can be restrictive as a drywood termite control. It is often used on a single board or a group of boards to kill a drywood termite infestation. If an infestation is easy to find and easy to access, the drywood termite infestation can be given a localized treatment. Holes are drilled into the infested wood, and termiticide is injected into the galleries within the wood.

How to prevent a drywood termite and Subterranean termite infestation

Drywood termites prefer dry, damaged wood, as well as cardboard, old newspapers, and old garbage in the house. Remove them from your home. If you must keep them, place them in the full sun for a day.

Repair or replace old furniture that will attract drywood termites. Please place them in the sun twice a week.

Use pressure-treated wood for building with. Paint or treat wood indoors.

If you are going to build a structure with wood indoors to help with termite control, treat it with silica aerogel dust or Boron containing compounds. Most hardware stores will sell them, or a professional could do it for you. Trials have found that as long as you use enough products, drywood termites will struggle to get inside the wood. Follow the manufactures instructions for use.

Both products can be used on new or existing structures. They are unsuitable for outdoor wooden structures as silica and Boron are affected negatively by water.

Cover attic and crawl space vents with mesh screens to prevent drywood termites from coming into your home. Termites like dark, quiet areas and will go into the house through your attic or crawl space. Drywood termites can be kept out by installing mesh screens on openings. Check the screens regularly for any damage.

Use caulk to seal up any cracks and crevices to prevent entry points for drywood termites into your home. Check around the perimeter of your home and look for signs of damage to the walls; if you see any, apply caulk to the damage. When it has dried, it will seal the hole.

Try to check the walls at least twice a year, as new holes and cracks can occur in the property’s structure at any time.

Termite bait stations and liquid barrier treatments will also help with termite control.

Store firewood away from the home at least two feet away, and don’t let them touch the walls of buildings. Keeping firewood away will also help to prevent other pests.

If you have a lot of firewood, you could store it in a covered structure to keep it dry in the winter months.

Keep trees, vegetation, and bushes trimmed near the home and take them away promptly. Drywood termites like old dried-out trees and bushes and will soon move into the house when they have finished with them. Any old tree stumps in the yard should ideally be removed.

Remove leaves and other debris from the yard—clear gutters of leaves and pine needles to prevent moisture build-up.

Keep mulch as far from your home as possible because it will attract termites. Termites will tunnel and feed on the moist wood chip-filled mulch. If you have applied mulch, check it regularly for termites before they can get to your home and damage structures.

Drywood termites could be inside old furniture. If you discover termites in furniture and they have not spread into the walls, take it outside and burn it if you can. Leave it in the full sun for a week if impossible. Small items can be placed in the freezer for two weeks to kill the drywood termites.
Check old furniture pieces for signs of termite damage and look for tiny holes and weaknesses in the wood.

If you live in California, getting regular inspections by a pest control company is a good idea. They will check for holes, wood damage, and termite droppings. A pest control expert will also check the attic and your crawl space. Pest controllers know where and what to look for and can identify them.

Signs of drywood termites

Below are some signs of drywood termites to look out for.

Hollow wood

Drywood termites feed on the inside of wood, removing the moisture; this causes the wood to become hollow. If you tap on wood that sounds hollow, it is an early indication of drywood termites.

Pin holes

If you notice small holes on your furniture’s surface, you are guaranteed to have Drywood termites. Pest control experts will refer to the holes as pin holes.

The pin holes can be an early warning sign or that drywood termites have been present for some time and that you have a significant termite infestation and need urgent termite control treatment. If you notice drywood termite swarmers coming out of the holes, it could also indicate a significant infestation.

And finally,

We presented ‘Drywood termites in California.’ We discussed termite control options, the signs of Drywood termites, and how to minimize the risks of a termite infestation. If you are worried about drywood termites, get help from a pest control company. We hope you have found the article helpful.

Good luck!


Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each control method, product and process to prevent infestations effectively. 

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